An alternative to Adobe’s dominance in the graphic design software market with some key benefits and an established user base.
What does it do?
This is the latest version of the main alternative to Adobe’s Creative Cloud and offers a whole package of print-friendly creative design tools and utilities, plus many fonts and a very large clipart library. It’s for Windows platforms and is fully compatible with Windows 10.

Platform Windows 7 to 10, Intel i3 or later CPU
Programs CorelDraw 2017 (vector art); Photo-Paint 2017 (bitmap art); PowerTrace (bitmap to vector conversion); Font Manager (font organisation and assignment to applications); Connect (local and online asset search); Capture (a screen grabber); Website Creator (web creation); Barcode Wizard (creates barcodes in popular formats); Duplexing Wizard (sets up double-sided print); PhotoZoon Pro 4 (image enlargement); Microsoft Visual Basic and Visual Studio (automation tools); WhatTheFont (online font identification); EPS GhostScript (for EPS file editing).
Price $792 (new); $397 (upgrade); subscription $22.06/month for annual account

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?
Official launch was on 11 April, and it shipped in early May. Corel’s target markets are professional and semi-pro designers. Many will also have Adobe CC subscriptions, but Corel points out that the two can operate side by side. The Adobe colour engine can be used accordingly so appearances are synchronised. It can import native Illustrator files as well as other popular formats (including current PDF, PDF/X etc formats).
CorelDraw is particularly popular in the large-format signage market, largely for historic reasons (lots of experienced users) and partly because its clipart includes sign-friendly items such as modern car and van outlines as guides for vehicle graphics.

How does it work?
It’s a suite of independent but complementary graphics programs, including CorelDraw (vector drawing, painting, layout); Photo-Paint (a pixel based image editor); PowerTrace (photo to vector conversions); Font Manager (to search for, group and activate/deactivate fonts differently depending on the application); plus 1,000 fonts and 12,000 clipart items. There are also five hours of training videos.

How does it differ from previous versions?
The core CorelDraw has a very long history dating back to 1989. It has been upgraded over the years and gained additional programs, always keeping up approximate equivalence to Adobe Illustrator. Gerard Metrailler, director, product management, Graphics, says Corel is stressing productivity as much as creativity for the 2017 suite, citing refinements to the user interface.
Finding and selecting control nodes in complex graphics can be difficult, so there’s an option now to highlight them in contrasting colours. As with X8 you can copy and paste groups of points to create new objects and there’s a knife tool that can copy with user-set overlaps (handy for wallpaper and the like).
Standout new features in CorelDraw and Photo-Paint 2017 include full support for the latest pen tilt features in Wacom graphics tablets (including later editing) and support for touchscreens and hybrid tablet/laptop computers.
Draw has a powerful new LiveSketch feature that uses ‘artificial intelligence’ to translate rough on-screen sketches (with a tablet or mouse) into smooth continuous vector lines and curves.
A new Border and Grommet dialog box lets you create a banner from a page or from selected objects on a page – handy for signage and canvas wraps.
Photo-Paint has additional tools and effects plus a stretch tool to create edges for wraps.

What is the USP?
Compared with the market-leading Adobe CC, Corel does not force users to enter an open-ended subscription with no control over updates. It offers outright purchase (called a ‘permanent licence’) and users can choose to upgrade or not when a new version appears. There is an annual subscription model if you want though, and this includes all upgrades.
In feature terms, the USP of CorelDraw itself is the new LiveSketch feature, closely followed by the much easier selection of control nodes by colour highlighting them. The package as a whole includes more fonts and extensive clipart than the Adobe equivalents.

How easy is it to use?
It depends where you’re starting from. For absolute beginners to computer design there’s a lot to learn in the main Draw and Photo-Paint programs, which have grown more complex as features were added. However for a user of the previous version, the new features are easy to grasp.

Adobe Creative Cloud 2017
Creative Cloud dominates graphic design with a suite of programs that cover most aspects of print, video and web.
Platform MacOS, Windows

CADlink SignLab V10
Part of a suite of software aimed at signage, engraving and similar services. The entry level package is DesignPro for $523, offering text, design and layout tools, plus export to print-and-cut RIPs.
Platform Windows

SAi Flexi v12
Flexi is a dedicated signmaking production package offering all-in-one design, print and cut features on subscription only.
Platform Windows

Serif Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo 1.5
Serif is a British graphics and layout developer. In 2015 it released a pair of keenly priced perpetually licensed competitors to CorelDraw and Photo-Paint (or Illustrator and Photoshop), then updated them late last year.
Platform MacOS, Windows